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News :: DNC : Organizing
Consulta Reportback From Austin Activist
25 Feb 2004
An Austin activist provides a reportback to the DNC resistance consulta, held in Boston Feb 13-16.

The Democratic National Convention Resistance Consulta, called by an anti-authoritarian coalition known as the Bl(A)ck Tea Society, was held in Boston on the weekend of February 13-16. Participants traveled from all over the country, either with or on behalf of larger affinity groups. Written proposals came in from as far away as Washington state. The purpose of the consulta was to collectively discuss and educate one another about the upcoming actions surrounding the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Boston on July 26-29. Participants came to hear what was already being planned, both by the Bl(A)ck Tea Society and the State, as well as to offer discussion and proposals about possible action scenarios.
An Austin activist provides a reportback to the DNC resistance consulta, held in Boston Feb 13-16.
blackteasociety.org

The Democratic National Convention Resistance Consulta, called by an anti-authoritarian coalition known as the Bl(A)ck Tea Society, was held in Boston on the weekend of February 13-16. Participants traveled from all over the country, either with or on behalf of larger affinity groups. Written proposals came in from as far away as Washington state. The purpose of the consulta was to collectively discuss and educate one another about the upcoming actions surrounding the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Boston on July 26-29. Participants came to hear what was already being planned, both by the Bl(A)ck Tea Society and the State, as well as to offer discussion and proposals about possible action scenarios.

The majority of the consulta was held in a rather large rectangular room, on the second floor of a radical community church near Copley Square. (A painting on the third floor featured the Virgin Mary in a balaclava.) The walls of the meeting room were draped with Anarchy flags of every color: black/red (anarcho-syndicalism), black/purple (anarcha-feminist), black/pink (anarcho-queer) and black/green (eco-anarchist). This broad inclusiveness of anti-authoritarian perspectives, staunchly defended by the facilitators against pressure from multiple directions, allowed the Bl(A)ck Tea Society to open a space where struggle was placed before platformist quibbling-where theory was supplanted by a solid commitment to cooperation and action.

Through the morning session of the consulta, somewhere between 60-70 participants were presented with an innovative model of facilitation that was nothing short of inspired. Members of the BTS spoke with all of us about the questions they had dealt with in the weeks leading up to the consulta. The big one, they told us, concerned whether our community had reached a level of maturity where mass decentralized action was now possible. Their conclusion, based on long discussion, was that we, as an anarchist movement, were ready to take the next step.

The decentralized mass action still fresh on a lot of our minds was the “People’s Strike” in Washington, D.C. the fall of 2002. While a certain number of affinity groups there had pulled off daring direct actions (the burning barricade still vividly recalled by a number of us) the large percentage of those that converged on the city were arrested on the first day. Each was corralled together after participating in the few centralized actions that had been planned: the pagan cluster, the snake march, critical mass, etc. From this experience, the problem appeared of how to best encourage larger numbers of people to organize and carry out autonomous direct actions.

The BTS facilitators decided that the problem was one of support and coordination. At the People’s Strike, groups traveling from far out of town did not have access to the sorts of information they might need to plan an action. This was true both in terms of tactical logistics, as well as the particular weave of local issues and threads of history that overlay any city. The consulta opened, then, with a detailed presentation of Boston’s geography and the ways in which certain locations intersected with systems of class and race privilege. About Charlston, Dorchester, and Roxbury, we learned about the construction of INS detention centers, the lack of reliable public transportation, and the presence of Bioterrorism research laboratories. The BTS made it clear that it would provide any sort of historical or community-specific information that might be needed in the planning of any direct action.

“People coming to Boston must have a plan,” one of the BTS facilitators insisted. Affinity groups were encouraged to cluster if they wished to coordinate larger, more above-ground actions. At the same time, all groups were welcomed to approach the BTS about any logistical support needed for more clandestine actions-as long as details were kept private. (For purposes of greater electronic security, all participants were encouraged to procure encrypted accounts from Hushmail.com.) The role of the Bl(A)ck Tea Society, as they described it, was not to plan actions but to provide a framework for action, a certain amount of infrastructure, and their full support before, during, and after each affinity group’s action.

Included in the Bl(A)ck Tea Society’s coalition is the National Lawyers Guild (which has already pledged a minimum of 50 legal observers), BALM (Boston-Area Liberation Medics), and the Anarchist Black Cross, which teaches street defense and provides material, moral and monetary jail support for those arrested. The message delivered to all of us by the BTS was that our backs were covered at every step of the way; and they would bend theirs over backwards to ensure that whatever we wanted to do would be carried off in the clearest, safest, and most effective manner possible.

The education provided by members of the BTS and allies about local issues was considerable. We were given a detailed analysis of the labor situation in Boston, which may or may not calculate heavily in the equation of this summer’s actions. 32 of the 32 city unions do not currently have contracts in Boston, and this includes the Police and Firefighter unions. While it is expected that Mayor Menino (D) will negotiate at least some of the contracts prior to the convention, the ones that remain without contracts are likely to march. In the case of the Police union, the city police are threatening to strike and consider any outside security officials, including Federal and State, scabs. The general consensus was that we should in no way fool ourselves into believing that a Police union is our ally. Nonetheless the situation might provide certain opportunities for action.

Other pressing social issues were discussed, including the severe lack of affordable housing or living wages throughout Boston, high taxes, gentrification, and the unaccountable growth of corporate power. BTS organizers encouraged anyone planning an action to conduct research about the area beforehand, either independently or with their support. The chances are high that allies may be found in even the most unexpected places.

Weeks before the consulta, Tom Ridge declared the Democratic National Convention a “high-level national security event.” While the Boston city council has expressed that it wants nothing to do with the so-called “Miami model,” there will be at least one thing in common between the two approaches. It is what has become the most visceral, material expression of all that we oppose: the FENCE. In this case, however, we might see it in its most honest form: a solid, opaque, black wall fully enclosing several blocks around the Fleet Center where the convention will be held.

Anyone (the police in particular) looking for a repeat of Miami is likely to be disappointed. The BTS has made it clear that, for all the support they intend to offer out-of-towners, they will be planning no centralized march against the fence. Attempts to dismantle it were by no means discouraged, but the implication was that any attempt-small or large-would be more likely to succeed if planned and executed in secret. For this and other such actions, the Bl(A)ck Tea Society reiterated their commitment to provide as much information and coordination as possible before the event.

At the same time, the Bl(A)ck Tea Society expressed a strong desire, shared by most of the consulta participants, that the initiators of any action join and extend local struggles. This would be in contrast to previous “fence” actions, whose participants risked isolating themselves from local communities by seizing upon only the most visible, and also most temporary, symbols of exclusion in the city.

Throughout the discussion on Saturday, which continued for over eight hours with only a few short breaks (as well as an unexpected false “fire alarm” that forced us to evacuate the building) what impressed me the most was the considerable focus and-dare I say it?-“professionalism” of all those that attended. Many attendees took extensive notes and forced themselves to jot down to every comment, even when they seemed ready to topple over from exhaustion. Everyone was fully engaged in the conversations taking place. The dialogue was spirited, cooperative and impressively efficient. There was a general sense that our discussions were of actual import; that all we said and how carefully we listened would have a real, material impact on future events.

I was reminded of the shift described by militants in Paris, France 1968; where they “broke out of the psychology of defeat, the outlook of the loser” (endemic of Western Leftists, even then) and began to understand themselves as subjects of their own history. There were no spectators present at the consulta, and no spectacle either: only participation. Should this level of direct personal involvement continue, expressed collectively in our rejection of electoral politics and its thin veils of “democracy,” the participants of the Republican National Convention protests will have much to live up to: once they see the barricades burning in the streets of Boston.

http://blackteasociety.org


See also:
http://www.blackteasociety.org

This work is in the public domain.
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Re: Consulta Reportback From Austin Activist
25 Feb 2004
Two thoughts.

The first is that this article makes in sound like the Black Tea Society is the only one organizing anything in Boston, not that an outsider should be expected to know all these things. There is a large, as yet unnamed, coalition of community groups putting together plans for the DNC as well, plus a bunch of folks organizing a Boston Social Forum.

The second, is from the sound of this, there is no plan for any sort of spokescouncil--I assume that's what "totally decentralized" means. Federalism--smaller groups working together democratically--is usually considered a basic organizing principal of anarchism. You at least want to coordinate groups' actions so that they don't step on each others' toes. This sounds less like a recipe for anarchy than one for chaos. It sounds like the Black Tea Society is doing good things, but I wonder why they aren't calling a spokescouncil. May be someone from the Society could comment.
Re: Consulta Reportback From Austin Activist
26 Feb 2004
I was wondering the same thing as Muskrat. If the BTS is going to represent themselves to out-of-town activists as the only ones in Boston planning anything, it strikes me as pretty similar to Workers' World-style crap of presenting themselves as the onlyones behind an action that many groups have worked on.

I have heard that the Boston Social Forum is the weekend before the convention, so it's a bit outside the mix. But I thought there was also a big meeting the weekend before the Consulta. People from the BTS must have been there, no?
Re: Consulta Reportback From Austin Activist
26 Feb 2004
just to try and address those concerns.

we aren't the only ones doing anything. this 'large coalition' (which i personally have attended several times) has failed to accomplish much. Let alone produce any sort of information so that others know they exist. I am not going to feel guilty because we are more active.

We have never said that we are THE organizing group in Boston. We are simply a coalition of anti-authoritarians working togther on this specific project.

The Boston Social Forum was invited to come to the consulta and talk for a few minutes about their goals and plans and such, but they failed to show up.

We will certainly call for spokescouncil before the convergence. Of course. That is not something that needs to be announced 6 months before hand. I don't know exactly what you are implying, but i certainly am not going to tell people at a meeting what my direct action plans are, i am certainly not doing to allow or encourage others to violate security culture like that.

And for the record, I don't feel like federalism is in anyway a principle of anarchism. But that is a separate debate.

The meetings for the BSF have not been open, so we have not been allowed to participate in that. And the coalition group decided to schedule their most recent meeting DURING our consulta, so we were unable to attend the most recent meeting. But we will be at the next (whenever they announce it).

Hope that helps to ease some concerns.
Re: Consulta Reportback From Austin Activist
26 Feb 2004
Yes, you have eased some concerns--mine at any rate. I'm not expecting people to reveal plans they may have for actions the cops may want to interfere with--I was just concerned about activists stepping on each others' toes. I assume you're going to try to coordinate with the big coalition as well. I was not meaning to imply that you guys were being sectarian or anything like that and I'm sorry if it came across that way. I made the comment about other groups existing because a few posts on the IMC site here have made it sound like many people think the Black Tea Society is the only one planning anything. You're right that the big coalition has not done a terribly good job of publicizing their existence. It is the nature of coalition work, however, that it takes a long time to get things done, since you have to reconcile a diverse range of perspectives. But they could promote their meetings a little better.
Re: Consulta Reportback From Austin Activist
26 Feb 2004
That eases some of my concerns as well, though it still bothers me that this person in Austin came awy with the impressions posted here that led to the concern from me and muskrat. And I don't see much raeson for you to take a swipe at the other coalition for having "failed to accomplish much." There are different ways to build, and if a group wants to go slowly or not publicize (though they must have publicized some, as I heard their meeting before the consulta got nearly 100 people), that's their call. The BTS made an organizing decision by intiving people from elsewhere in the country instead of focusing on other groups in Boston. That's the BTS' call, and I don't hear people slagging you for that.
Re: Consulta Reportback From Austin Activist
26 Feb 2004
"This broad inclusiveness of anti-authoritarian perspectives, staunchly defended by the facilitators against pressure from multiple directions, allowed the Bl(A)ck Tea Society to open a space where struggle was placed before platformist quibbling-where theory was supplanted by a solid commitment to cooperation and action."

I wonder if the irony was lost on the individual who wrote this report when they wrote about how inclusive this consulta was in reaching out to diverse anarchist tendencies, and then in the same sentence felt the need to make an unnecessary swipe at platformists. Considering roughly 15-20% of the active anarchists in Boston identify to one degree or another with platformism, this seems like a stupid and unproductive remark to make. Of course, this was just one person's musings, and hopefully not reflective of the larger Black Tea group, so, whatever. No big deal.

It sounds like the weekend meetings went really well. Congratulations to everyone in Black Tea who pulled this consulta together. I agree with some of the concerns raised with the comments, and would very much like to see anarchist participation in all areas of organizing against the DNC (both autonomous and explicitly radical activity and also as an anarchist voice within larger community/labor-based coalitions like the Boston Social Forum), but it still early in the game and things are still coming together on all sides, so I don't really see a need to levy serious criticisms at anyone just yet.
Boy you love to hear yourself talk.
03 Mar 2004
Why do you think that burning barricades are intimidating? They seem stupid, childish and boring, (like Woodstock II). How do you burn a metal fence anyway?

Do you realize that the name of your organization is worthless? Black Tea Society. Ha! The Boston Tea Party was not perpetrated by anarchists. Those same men from the Green Dragon Tavern founded the Massachusetts Bar Association. Get a grip, schoolboy. You're lame.

www.contextflexed.com
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